Choosing a Mains or Petrol Powered Hedge
Given that cordless hedge trimmers have taken a large chunk of market share at the
lightweight domestic end of the market, there is still a good slice of the hedge trimmer scene
that is fought over by mains electric machines and ones with their own petrol (or Gas for
American readers) power packs. Here we try to pick out some key features and benefits that
might help direct your choice.
Corded Mains Trimmers
We can usefully classify these machines by the length of their blade bars as this gives a good
indication of how big the intended work is.
In the under-18 inch category there are some machines that are especially light, which may
appeal to many: Black & Decker’s 16.5” trimmer weighs in at only 2.2kg, whereas most in
this sector are around 3 kg. Expect power output of about 400W: the highest in this sector is
the Makita 17.5” that has 550W. It also boasts a 0.05 second reaction from its mechanical
brake, a reassuring feature to have on safety grounds.
Most of the short trimmers like this have a 16mm gap between blades: the wider the gap the
larger the branches that can be cut, but manufacturers can only offer the wider spacings
where the motors can cope with the extra load.
If you want to handle slightly more than the light type of trimming, opt for a bigger machine:
this after all is why you are choosing a mains electric device over a cordless one.
In the 18 to 20 inch category the machines inevitably get heavier, from Bosch’s flyweight 19”
(420W) at 2.8 kg, to Ryobi’s 19.75” (500mm) with its powerful 600W output and a weight of
3.9kg to match. Note that this is a one-way reciprocating machine: if you want a 2-way
machine for a ‘hedge sweep’ facility they offer a 500W model. Both have a class-leading
24mm cutting capacity and the very useful feature of a rotating handle that allows you to
more easily cope with awkward locations and different cutting angles.
Others that offer 20mm-spaced blades include the 20” machines from Black & Decker and
Flymo: the latter has a longer 12m cable (most have 10m) which is self-retracting to
Rising another step to the 20-22 inch models, one of the lightest is the 21” Einhell, with a
decent output of 550W yet weighing only 3.1kg. It has a relatively small 18mm blade gap but
this is enough for medium-weight work. Bosch offers not one but three machines in this size
range, from 420W (20.5”) to 600W (21.5”). Yet the manufacturer reminds us that wattage is
not everything: the lowest of these three produces torque (turning power) of 22nm but their
best produces a very high 50nm, due to its slipping clutch design. It also has a mechanical
brake stop and a very large 24mm blade gap.
Finally, there are the longest of the electrical machines that exceed 22”. If you are looking for
a lightweight model, you could choose the Flymo 500W 23.5” with its 3.4kg, but Flymo also offers a same-size model with a 600W motor, a more rapid brake (0.05 sec.) and blade gap of 27 rather than 22mm, if you do not mind it being 4.2kg, which is more typical in this class.
Draper offers a competitive 23.5” model with its patented 3-position handle, 600W, 3.6kg,
0.02 sec. mechanical stop and a 27mm gap.
Also worth checking out are the PRO-T professional hedge trimmers from Bosch: compared
to their more domestic models these have a hefty 80nm of torque and a push-rod drive that
makes the machines quieter than most. They also have a huge 34mm blade gap to get really
serious work done. It is with machines like this that the electric sector competes head-to-head
with petrol, so long as you do not need a go-anywhere capability and can find mains power
where you need it.
If you do need the versatility of the petrol-powered models, then you are probably going to
want the do-anything ability of a large machine, so we should concentrate on trimmers with
blade lengths of 20 inches or more (which is the category into which most of these machines
At the lower end we find Hitachi with a 20” 21.1cc model (740W output) and a smallish fuel
tank of 350ml but still with the ‘S Start’ feature that makes the cord-pull easier. This is
pleasingly light for a petrol hedge cutter at 4.3kg and is a good occasional-user machine.
McCulloch offers a ‘home user’ 22” model with broadly similar specifications.
If you want absolute grunt, consider the Makita 22” with its massive 880W of power (1.1hp
DIN) and a 610ml tank for longer work sessions. Competitors include a Hitachi 21.5” with
740W, a 5-position handle, easy operation for left handers (often not the case with other
machines) and the useful S-Start.
But topping the length league (without getting into the specialist long-reach machine subsector) there is a one-sided Gardencare 29.5” trimmer with a big 25cc capacity to power it,
and a swivel handle. They also have a 23” 2-sided 26 cc machine.
An unusual machine to think about is the Active 23.5” which comes with digital ignition for
easy starts. It is quite powerful with a 23cc motor, and a 5-position handle.
The choice is yours…
So which type to choose? Another factor to remember is the noise. These are all quite loud
machines but the internal combustion engine, particularly a small 2-stroke, is particularly
hard on the ear. You should always wear ear muffs as well as a helmet and goggles when
using any hedge trimmer, but you will want to be taking regular breaks from the noise with a
petrol machine and unless you are carrying out your work well away from other people they
might want a break from it too.
For the majority of domestic buyers that might be enough to swing the decision in favour of
electric. The added environmental argument of lower pollution at the point of use will also be
a factor. For professional groundsmen, however, their need to deal with vegetation wherever
it occurs will be a decisive factor in favour of the petrol engine.